Almanac

Community - June 30, 2010

Author Barry Eisler serves up new thriller

by Joshua Falk

In the opening pages of bestselling thriller novelist Barry Eisler's new book, "Inside Out," CIA officials scramble over the disappearance of 92 Agency waterboarding videotapes.

Sound familiar? The plot was inspired by New York Times articles reporting on the destruction of 92 CIA interrogation tapes in 2005.

"It's the most political book I've written," Mr. Eisler said of his latest release, a sequel to his 2009 New York Times bestseller "Fault Line."

Mr. Eisler, a Menlo Park resident, will speak about the new book at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 29, at Kepler's Books, 1010 El Camino Real in Menlo Park. The book, his eighth, is due to arrive in bookstores the same day.

In the new book, "Fault Line" protagonist Ben Treven is charged with finding and eliminating a rogue colleague who has stolen the CIA tapes in order to blackmail the U.S. government.

Although the story is the work of Mr. Eisler's imagination, he considers it "a fictional explanation for what has been reported in the real world." In fact, the novel's original manuscript included more than 80 footnotes that cited news articles detailing the factual events that form the story's backbone.

"If the things in the thriller couldn't really have happened," he said, "then for me the thrill starts to evaporate."

Mr. Eisler, a Cornell-trained lawyer turned CIA covert operative turned thriller writer, prizes himself on his penchant for detail. He visits the locations he depicts in his books to make sure he portrays them accurately; he fashions his characters based on interviews with experts and his experiences as a covert operative with the CIA; and he looks to the headlines for inspiration while crafting his plots.

"I'm drawn to thrillers both as a reader and a writer that are as accurate as possible," he said.

Mr. Eisler, who maintains his own news and politics blog, "Heart of the Matter," dedicates "Inside Out" to the bloggers. For each copy of "Inside Out" ordered from Kepler's before or during his June 29 event, Mr. Eisler said he will donate $5 to AlterNet, an independent, progressive news service.

"The blogosphere, I find, has much more of a devotion to getting to the truth," he said. "The information I come across in the blogosphere and write about in my own blog ends up forming the basis for my novels."

Other book tour appearances double as fundraisers for Firedoglake, GRITtv, and Truthout, also independent, progressive news sources.

Mr. Eisler is distrustful of what he calls "establishment media": The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs. But he doesn't want anyone dismissing him as just another radical.

"The mainstream enslaves itself to the government by permitting government sources anonymity," Mr. Eisler said, "not only without good reason, but in fact in violation of the standards of integrity set by the newspapers in question."

"I'm pretty political," he said. "That's why I read so much, and it's why I blog myself."

"A lot of what the new book is about is the way the government manipulates the mainstream media so that the mainstream media essentially launders government propaganda," Mr. Eisler said. "Everything that's bad for America and good for thriller writers is in the book."

Although his writing has gotten more political since his first novel "Rain Fall," Mr. Eisler stresses that the purpose of his novels is still to entertain.

"When I want to make an overt political argument, that's what my blog is for," Mr. Eisler said.

"The main purpose of my novels has always been to entertain," Mr. Eisler added. "They're thrillers. If you're not thrilled, I haven't done my job."

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